Staunton, April 25 – Angry that Vladimir Putin has labeled the mass deaths of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 a genocide, the Turkish foreign ministry said that Russia ought to know better given “the mass atrocities and exiles in the Caucasus, in Central Asia and Eastern Europe” it has committed and “the collective punishment methods such as Holodomyr as well as inhumane practices” it has employed “especially against Turkish and Muslim people.”
“We consider that Russia is best-suited to know what exactly ‘genocide’ and its legal dimensions are,” the ministry’s statement said, implicitly suggesting that two can play this game and that Ankara is now prepared to label many Russian actions the same way (mfa.gov.tr/no_-129_-24-april-2015_-press-release-regarding-the-approach-of-the-russian-federation-on-the-1915-events.en.mfa).
Actions by the Russian Imperial Government, the Soviet government and the post-Soviet government that Turkey could select from among to bring a charge of genocide is large, and its statement yesterday guarantees those Turkic and Muslim peoples who feel themselves to have been the victim of such a crime will press their case in Turkey and receive more attention there.
Among the groups certain to raise this issue are the Nogays, Balkars, and Karachay in the North Caucasus and various Muslim groups throughout the Russian Federation, but beyond any doubt, the group that will be the most encouraged by Turkey’s actions will be the Circassians who have sought international recognition as the victims of genocide for many years.
Their case, which attracted international attention but no movement on their request in the run up to the Sochi Olympics, a competition that took place on the very site where Circassians were killed and expelled from Russia and on the 150th anniversary of that action, will now get more attention.
One Circassian activist, Lidia Zhigunova, immediately after the appearance of the Turkish statement has laid out why the members of that nation will now expect to get greater support in Ankara (aheku.net/news/policy/6210?fb_ref=Default&fb_source=message ). Among other things, she writes:
“The extermination and the expulsion of the Circassian population from their homeland in the Caucasus to Turkey that took place in 1860s, was no doubt one of the tragedies that the Turkish Foreign Ministry had in mind, when referring to Russia’s biases regarding this issue.”
“Russia still denies the fact that as a result of the deadly tactics used during the imperial conquest and the colonization of the Circassian territory, only a small percentage of population of Circassia remained in the homeland, the rest were exiled to Turkey, hundreds of thousands of them were starved to death or perished on their way to Turkey, or immediately upon their arrival.”
“The cynicism and the double standard of the Russian government regarding this issue is underscored by the fact that it has been over 30 years, since the Circassian organizations started demanding from Russia to reevaluate its attitude toward these historical events, and to classify the actions of the Russian empire that led to the dislocation of the Circassian population, its dispossession, and physical annihilation as genocide.”